23 AUGUST 1856, Page 12


Tws despatch of Mr. Marcy fulfils our anticipation that the Go- vernment of the United States would refuse its assent to the pro- hibition of privateering; and the arguments with which he Jus- tifies that refusal have very considerable force, though they do not exhaust the subject. His reasoning may be compressed into a few sentences. States which possess large navies may easily

relinquish the practice of privateering, but those which do not intend to maintain large naval forces cannot be expected to debar themselves from their natural and only resource in the event of war. The United States do not maintain a large navy ; they have a large commerce to protect; and in the event of war they must enable that commerce to provide the means of its own protection.

Policy corroborates the dictates of necessity: large navies, like late standing armies, are a temptation to war, a menace to peace. The United States discountenance the maintenance of standing forces both by sea and land ; but for self-defence,

the natural complement of a small army or navy is somewhat of the nature of a militia. Nor would a stipulation against pri- vateering be effectual when it came to the tug of war. Sweden and Holland, Prussia and the United States, have alone attempted such a stipulation ; but it was soon dropped. In fact, when a state is at war, no stipulation could restrict it from organizing its own force ashore or afloat, or from detern mgthe constituent character of its force ; and the same vessels which we usually call privateers could easily be incorporated in a technical mode with the public armed force. You defeat your own object of human- izing maritime war, therefore, if you bind up with rules that will readily receive the assent of civilized states a proposition which cannot be accepted by some and in practice could not be guaran- teed by any. Such is the gist of Mr. Marcy's argument. It is clinched with a rather telling hit. The object of these proposed improvements is to spare the property of nnoffending citizens—to check the asperities of war. But that is not done while public armed ships are allowed to despoil, capture, and di- vide in the form of " prize-money." To attain your present ob- ject, you should forbid navies to attack any but navies, armies any but armies ; which would reduce warfare to duelling.

This undoubtedly would spare pillage and effusion of blood ; and the principle has been recognized in past times. It was chivalry which led to the "Challenge of Barletta," recalled from old times in d'Azeglio's romance of IVeramoaca. War by a representative body has often been performed; and its effects have sometimes been minimized by reducing the representative body to a single man on each side—making war in the form of single combat. A very ancient instance of single combat with all the stipulated con- sequences of war lies in the challenge of the Philistine champion Goliah to the Israelites—" Choose you a man for you and let him come down to me : if he be able to fight with me and to kill me, then we will be your servants ; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then shall ye be our servants and serve us." Now, if we are to revive so very ancient a practice as representative war, we should of course do it with improvements suited to the ad- vane of civilization and the resources of the age. We have as- certained, in our time, that war is entirely a question of means— at least we suppose ourselves to have established that conclusion ; and if so, the whole of the horrors and waste might be spared by ascertaining those means, comparing them and casting up the -balance which soldiers c;111 victory. It would then need nothing more than a " clearing-house" of All Nations to cast up and compare the cross-accounts, to declare the balance of assets, and to distribute the victory " as per account."

By that time, war would have become a sheer humbug, and the hefooled nations would be under a governance worse than that of force. The truth is, that victory is not the balance of means that can be ascertained in a money denomination ; for intelli- gence, will, fortitude, morals, all bear upon the national power of working out a victory. The Marcy argument against stand- ing forces, ashore or afloat, will have weight with many in this- country. To concentrate the coercive process, sparing the rest of the nation, would at once render the community indifferent to the abuses of coercive power, and would carry still further that separation of the arms-bearing from the disarmed classes which already has a tendency so dangerous to public liberty. We have not yet seen the day when the possession of military force has ceased to be the lever of political power, the governing screw, the instrument for determining where the supreme authority shall reside ; and the less that military power is diffused in a state, the more it is concentrated, the less of genuine " self-government." A nation with a military caste will be reckless in attack, impotent in self-defence, indifferent if its government combine with others to act against 111 classes which oppose the bureaux or the military administration of any one " allied " state.

Mr. Marcy is right in saying that we cannot compel the aban- donment of privateering ; we can pledge ourselves to forego it. In this view the declaration of Paris has pledged us to states whose sea militia we do not fear ; it binds us to rely solely on our established navy, and to disuse the supplemental force of priva- teers : thus it tends to weaken us against the United States, the only power whose privateering powers we need hold in respect.

The Paris declaration was an attempt to legislate for the civil- ized world. The dissent of the American Republic seems to place a negative on the enactment. Before we could carry any such law, we must establish a representative chamber for the civilized community, an international legislature. The natural prelimi- nary and preparative to any such tribunal would be, an interna- tional commission to review the body of international law, to con- solidate its universally recognized portion, and to place its de- bateable parts in a course of fair discussion. We cannot in any community carry acts of parliament by assuming that they have passed " nemine dissentiente," when the law is denied "


bus dissentientibus," the Eagle of Washington at the head of the plures."